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There is an LED Lighting Revolution Happening, Here’s Everything You Need to Know

NAB 2023 in Hindsight, Darryl Rode

The Film & Video industry is in the midst of an LED revolution. From those little single colored light emitting diodes from forty years ago that made crudely shaped letters and numbers on Texas Instruments $100 handheld calculators to today's mass arrays, we're seeing both a new and affordable way to light and display our work.

Today the LED has evolved into extremely bright and high Color Render Indexed (CRI) lighting fixtures and displays of any size and shape. The challenge remains limited to our own imagination. Environmentally, the LED is both a low power consumption and low heat device.

The ability to drive the diodes to such precision in color-purity and brightness is nothing short of remarkable. We are seeing many known and unfamiliar manufacturers bringing their lights and displays to our industry in quantities never seen before.

Tips on LED Lights:

  • Spend the extra for the WW-RGB or Bi-color fixtures as the range of colors being created can eliminate gels and speed color changes on set.

  • If LED panels are used for content displays, look at both the front and the back sides of these panels.

  • It's important to understand their support hardware and how you plan to build them.

LED Panel Maintenance, Quality and Support

All LED panels are not alike, while they seem similar to the surface. These individual diodes can be very fragile. Ease of repair on-set, is not possible with some panel designs.

  • The better wall panels have a glue or epoxy compound added between the diodes to strengthen the array and still keep the wall bright and rich.

  • The best panels can be front or rear serviced.

  • The better manufacturers can repair these panels off-site for around $50 per panel with a 2 to 3 week turn-around time. Assuming you like the picture on the panel, understand there's refresh rates that could become an issue for future use in say a Volume Studio.

Panel Specs Make All The Difference

Getting to the better 7680Hz refresh rate is the best for now. Dot pitch is the distance between each diode. Anything tighter than 2.6mm is remarkably beautiful, even as close as 6 feet viewing distance.

The back of the panel is a key place to review. The back reveals the ability to service and quickly add curves to your group. Simple is better and I was shocked to see some big name panel companies having rear panels that were not user friendly.

Bottomline, your intended use for the panels will be made or lost based on the panels rear cabinet design, features and benefits.

We found several North American manufacturers and resellers that push their service and support, which could be key.

A Guide to Buying LED Lighting Panels for Production

Answer these questions and shop accordingly:

  • Will my panel be used indoors, outdoors or both?

  • Will the panels be ground or hanger mounted?

  • What will my viewers or camera's distance be to the panels?

  • Do I need HDR, high refresh rates, epoxy fillers, etc.

You will need a video processor(s). The big names are Brompton and Novastar. Both have their own virtues on performance, availability and price. We looked at every LED wall manufacturer on the floor, some several times over and meeting with reps. Our conclusion is that these panels are all built to spec in either one of three plants in Shenzhen, China or one plant in Japan. Each manufacturer requires their own designs, features and points of difference, so know they aren't all the same, despite likely being born in the same plant anyway.

We're looking forward to adding panels, more and varied LED lights and clever robots this year at Keystone Pictures. Contact us to learn more.


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